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But around the time Binkis Recs – now consisting of MCs Flux, Jax and Killa Kalm – released its only nationally distributed album, 2003's The Reign Begins (Day By Day Entertainment), many groups among Atlanta's underground were starting to splinter or completely phase out.
While the scene slowed to a crawl, Jax steadily amassed a catalog of solo material. Between 2001 and 2007, he released six projects – Observe, J.F.K. (which stands for Jax Forever King), Sharp Images EP, Black Capitalism, The Sharpener mix CD and Sharper Images – all while holding down a day job loading trucks at UPS. As always, Jax's dimpled brand of honest humor shone through when he wrote a song based on his UPS grind called "Underpaidslavery," which appeared on the Sharp Images EP.
"Jax basically was a personification of being who you are," says Jayforce, who befriended Jax as host of 89.3's (WRFG-FM) the Beatz & Lyrics Show. "You can work a nine-to-five job [and] you can still have good times and enjoy your life, if you can keep your music honest."
Sometimes, his mother wondered if her son was keeping it a little too real.
"He worked like a Hebrew slave," says Alecia Thurston. "I said to him, 'It's time to get up off your knees, you don't have to suffer to be hip-hop, Chris.' He said, 'Yeah Ma, but when I'm suffering it makes me rhyme better.'"
Dude was tired.
That's the main thing Flux remembers Jax stressing that day. "He woke up mad early and he felt like he was getting sick," says Flux. "So he was just like 'Yeah, we're gonna do these joints and be out.'"
It was Monday, Nov. 3, and they were scheduled to perform at Lenny's later that night. They tried contacting the promoter by phone to see if they could bump up their slot on the bill from third to first, but they couldn't reach him.
"If we don't hear nothing, we're just gonna go down there and see what's up," Flux said to Jax.
After rehearsing their two-man set, they chilled and talked a bit. Conversation turned toward the future. As usual, Jax had several pots on the flame at once. He'd just finished a yet-to-be-released mix CD called The Sharpener 2. More Binkis Recs material was simmering. Jax and Flux were putting together an album as a duo. Plus, Jax already had another mix CD, I'm the Best Man, in the works. He was also opening the Binkis Records umbrella back up to begin pushing younger artists, including Ekundayo, Eddie Meeks of Prophetix, Jae Scott and Señor Kaos. According to Jax's wife Lisa, he was even considering putting his own rap career on the backburner to push his protégé, Kaos.
Jax was also eager to jump back into the mix with Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest and DJ Rasta Roots under their Smokin' Needlez banner, now that Phife's health was on the rebound after a successful kidney transplant.
Jax, on the other hand, hadn't visited a doctor's office in four years, according to his wife, and his blood pressure was slightly elevated. He had, however, been exercising more and eating a little better. He'd also trimmed down his chubby physique over the past two years. The dimples in his cheeks didn't dig in as deep when he smiled anymore.
"I was telling my son that I did not like the way he looked in the face," says his mother. "Chris looked like he was maturing too rapidly in the face. Chris had a round face. Now, you can lose weight, but you don't have to look sick. Chris didn't look well and I was on his case to go get [himself] checked out."
D.R.E.S. tha Beatnik booked Binkis Recs' first show at Yin Yang Café nearly a decade ago in 1999. When he met up with his longtime friends Jax and Flux at Lenny's on Nov. 3, the crowd was thin. Not only was it a Monday, but it was also the night before an historic presidential election. D.R.E.S. asked them if they wanted anything to drink. Jax asked for water, and they waited for what felt like forever for their turn to take the stage.
Finally, D.R.E.S. introduced them. Flux performed one of his new solo joints. Then Jax took front and center to perform the title song from 2007's Sharper Images. They got through the first verse and the hook with no problem. Then came the second verse.
"We were doing that part – "...grew up in Queens/been saggin' my jeans," recalls Flux. "And by the time we got up to "Before Ignorant Niggas Killed Intelligent Songs/but hold on – " it just so happens he was like 'hold up, hold up, hold up.'
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